Sunday, August 04, 2013

Political Prospects in 2014

Skirmishing for the 2014 elections has already begun. Two Republican candidates have already given firm indications that they plan to run against the Democratic nominee for governor, most likely present Governor Dannel Malloy, although Mr. Malloy has not yet made a formal announcement. Victory in an election depends in large part on the prevailing circumstances of the moment, and we simply do not know what the prevailing circumstances will be in 2014.

But some things will have changed. President Barack Obama, very much underestimated by Republican prognosticators before the 2012 elections, will not be on the mid-term election ticket. Republicans may recall the now amusing predictions of Karl Rove and others just before the votes were tallied. Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney was supposed to have edged out the sitting president, according to the calculations of Republican number crunches such as Dick Morris.
Obama’s absence may be a plus or minus for Democrats whose seats are vulnerable depending – we’ve heard this before – on the state of the economy. Some economists say the economy is resurging; others think improving economic conditions are a false spring. The testimony of competing economists may remind the general public of the testimony of, say, state and defense psychologists at criminal trials. The defense and the prosecution both have their own psychologists and what is said by one putative expert is unsaid by the other.
The baleful effects of Obamacare have not yet kicked in, and the president has gone to some pains to see to it that the downside of Obamacare will not be apparent until after the election. The president’s “lead from behind” foreign policy has left the United States behind in the estimation some of its European friends. The economic downturn in Europe means, if it means anything at all, that Maggie Thatcher was right about socialism when she said, “The problem with socialism is that, sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.” Europe is running out of options and, here in the United States, the Democrats’ social prescriptions are beginning to lose some zest. The Republican “war on women” was a useful campaign slogan back in 2012, but slogans are by nature political fads, and nothing in politics is more certain than the rapid passing of a fad.

All this is national, but it impinges somewhat on northeast state races because state Democrats have committed themselves to the operative script written by Obama’s Chicago playwrights in Washington DC. Some U.S. Senators and House members may have over committed themselves. At some point, as they are walking the plank and see below them the sharks circling in the waters, they may as easily un-commit themselves.

To a large extent, however, state politics is a local operation. Even so, one finds striking strategic and policy similarities between Connecticut’s progressive Democrats and national Democrats. The bite that modern progressivism has taken out of the Democratic Party hide, especially here in Connecticut, is significant.

At its core, progressivism is a statist doctrine. The blue-blooded progressive believes both the economy and society should be directed by governors and presidents. To the committed progressive, the doctrine of subsidiary – the notion that political solutions should issue from the smallest political unit affected by policy – is bosh. One detects a progressive imperative at work in Governor Dannel Malloy’s eagerness to interfere in every political transaction. This is a governor constitutionally incapable of minding his own business. And, of course, progressivism is irresistible catnip to Democratic politicians operating in a single party state such as Connecticut.

The progressive doctrine is an attractive one both for office holders and those involved in the media. Asked the question “What do you plan to DO once you are elected to office?” the progressive will answer without hesitation, “Anything and everything.”

He or she will wipe every tear, answer every sigh, and be prodigal with extravagant promises. To the same question, the conservative will answer, “As much as good sense will allow, and nothing that will disturb effective solutions that come from the people themselves.” This is not a satisfying answer for those who have been led to believe that politicians should help those who CAN help themselves without political angels hovering about them whispering heavenly commands in their ears.

The conservative answer leaves people, as much as possible, with their liberties and virtues intact. The trouble with moderns who expect to be coddled in the lap of the nanny state is that they are bored by virtue – as understood by the founders, a principle of action that leads to self-sufficiency -- and willing to surrender their liberty at the drop of a political promise. The conservative message is not one that sells well in the heat of a political campaign.

If one adds to all this the considerable advantages of incumbency and a media that appears to be rooting from the stands in favor of the Democratic one party state, Connecticut Republicans will in 2014 find they have a very rough row to hoe.
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